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Holes filled by departed blue chippers

Mets fill holes as Draft concludes

NEW YORK -- Where have all the Mets' top-30 picks gone? Well, it's a fair question to ask, because only pitchers Aaron Heilman (2001) and Mike Pelfrey (2005) are still in the Mets' system.

In recent years, the Mets have used their Minor Leaguers to acquire veteran players rather than picking and ripening them for a New York uniform. Pitcher Scott Kazmir (2002) was traded to Tampa Bay in the Victor Zambrano deal. Outfielder Lastings Milledge (2003) got the Mets two current starters in a trade, catcher Brian Schneider and outfielder Ryan Church. And of course, pitcher Johan Santana cost the Mets a slew of blue-chippers, including first-round arms Phil Humber (2004) and Kevin Mulvey (2006).

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So when the Mets approached this year's First-Year Player Draft, blue-chip holes were marked at the top of their Minor League system. The best medicine turned out to be college players, as 43 of their 52 picks on Thursday and Friday were products of two- or four-year secondary institutions.

Eight is the lowest total of high school players drafted by the Mets since Omar Minaya became the general manager, and it only continues a downward trend when it comes to taking preps. In 2005, New York took 17 high schoolers, followed by 14 in 2006 and 12 in 2007.

College bats were keyed on the Mets' board, director of amateur scouting Rudy Terrasas said. Both of this year's top picks, college juniors Isaac Davis from Arizona State (No. 18 overall) and David Havens from South Carolina (No. 22), are considered polished players who excel in the batter's box. Also, out of the 26 pitchers the Mets selected during the 2008 Draft, all but three went to college.

While matured players are supposedly absent, the monster potential of those in the prep ranks are more prepared to move up the Mets' farm system than any semi-developed teenager -- especially when many of those same high school players have scholarship offers that could be more tempting than signing and developing in the Minors as a later-round selection.

Mets' top five selections
Pick
POS
Name
School
18.1BIsaac DavisArizona St U
22.SSDavid HavensU of S.C. Columbia
33.RHPBradley HoltUNC Wilmington
68.OFJavier RodriguezPuerto Rico BB Academy HS
100.CFKirk NieuwenhuisAzusa Pacific U
Complete Mets Draft results >

"We knew going in that we would have to get the very best we could, as far as to add depth to our system," Terrasas said. "This year, we were able to have a couple of extra picks. And, you know, something I always emphasize to our staff, our goal is to sign the first 10-rounders."

The first player he would like to secure is Davis, whom Terrasas projects as a first baseman despite rumblings that he might be better suited for the corner outfield spots. Most of all, Terrasas just went to meet up again with Davis' father, Ron, a former Major Leaguer pitcher whom he pitched against when they were both playing high school ball in Texas.

As Terrasas went down the list of Draftees, he said he really liked the small-school kid with the big name, Azusa Pacific's Kirk Nieuwenhuis, who was a first-team All-NAIA selection after batting .400 for the Cougars. Also, Terrasas said his scouting staff was "banging on tables" to grab Boston College third baseman Eric Campbell, who impressed the Mets at their Shea Stadium workout.

These college bats will enter a system that could use their experience, as well as their relative youth. As of now, only five players on the Mets' current active roster -- David Wright, Pelfrey, Heilman, Joe Smith and Raul Casanova -- were original Draft picks of the team. A week ago the list could have included reliever Carlos Muniz and outfielder Nick Evans, but they were both recently sent down to Triple-A.

"We always say, 'Hey, we are going to take the best player available?' And we think we did," Terrasas said.

Local Ties: The Mets took two players from the state of New York, LeMoyne College pitcher Eric Beaulac (Troy, N.Y.) in the ninth round (No. 284 overall) and Tottenville High School second baseman Michael Giuffre in the 29th round (No. 884 overall).

The count: Of the Mets' 52 selections in this Draft, there were 26 pitchers (18 right-handers and eight left-handers), 12 outfielders, 10 infielders and four catchers.

Jon Blau is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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